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Some of my favorites

 Lord Huron is a studied attempt at a sepia-toned Old West sound, with good songs that enhance those contrivances.
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Date published: 1/31/2013

By Jonas Beals

THE FOLLOWING are a few of my recent music obsessions. These aren't necessarily the best songs I've heard lately, nor can they all be described as new. But I've been turning to all of them for comfort, entertainment and wonder.


Although increasingly rare these days, you can still get an occasional music recommendation from an actual person. Such was the case for me and Lord Huron's 2012 debut album "Lonesome Dreams."

It drips with the sort of annoying reverb vocals that have become the Auto-Tune of indie-folk, but it's still a worthy listen, thanks to direct, emotional lyrics and the gauzy sheen of a spaghetti-western soundtrack.

Two tracks stand above the rest. "Lullaby," has a stunning moment when atmospheric twang turns into an azure Caribbean dreamscape, thanks to a well-placed marimba.

"Brother" has thrived under the pressure of my "repeat" button because it is a simple devotional about friendship and family relationships. It is a worthy pillar of strength, inspirational and crushing at the same time.


There he is again. Sorry for the return trips to this well, but he's my hero, so deal with it.

I recently watched a video of Phish's New Year's Eve concert, which was golf-themed and featured lots of astroturf. They rang in the new year with a brief take on "Auld Lang Syne" before launching into "Tweezer Reprise," essentially an instrumental, although it has a few nonsensical lyrics about freezers and tweezers. There were backup singers on stage for that song, a rare move for Phish. It was hard to tell whether guitarist Trey Anastasio was laughing because he was excited, or because of the absurdity of having backup singers for what is essentially an instrumental.

That made me think of Zappa, who made some really fantastic backup singers sing some really bizarre lyrics over his career. One of those lyrics, from "Montana," is:

Who sings those lyrics on the 1973 album "Over-Nite Sensation?" That would be Tina Turner and the Ikettes. The song is about farming dental floss. With tweezers.


There has always been a contrarian current running beneath the crashing tidal wave of popular hip-hop--conscious rappers and backpackers with massive vocabularies, poetic sensibilities, senses of humor and little time for the consumerist trappings of mainstream hip-hop.

Joey Bada$$, a Brooklyn rapper who recently turned 18, rides those undercurrents surprisingly well on his first mixtape, "1999."

He worked with some good producers on the album, including MF DOOM and J Dilla, who surround his lyrics with a suitably high-IQ atmosphere.

Not that Joey's rhymes are devoid of swagger, violence, braggadocio and some heavy language, it's just that they seem to serve a more enlightening purpose. He's like a young Chuck D with the flow of Phife Dawg. His subject matter dances all over the cultural spectrum. In "Waves" he manages to rap about spermatozoa, religion, tofu and alfredo sauce while making a fairly ambitious and coherent statement about hard work, positive thinking and success.

Jonas Beals: 540/368-5036
Email: jbeals@freelancestar.com

JONAS' IN-TOWN PICK: Moch Pryderi at The Blarney Stone. Fredericksburg's best traditional Celtic music band in an Irish Pub. Saturday at 9 p.m. OUT-OF-TOWN PICK: Robert Earl Keen at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville. Some real Texas country from one of that state's musical heroes. Friday at 7 p.m. LISTENING TO: "Love Song (Ode to George)" by Ann Rabson. Thinking of the music that makes Fredericksburg--and the world--a better place.